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Gronk…and the NFL Draft…

…well, let’s get these thoughts out there quickly, as the draft is almost here.

First on Gronk.

Similar to former QB (wow, that still seems weird to say!) Tom Brady, the Blowhard really wasn’t losing a whole lot of sleep on Rob Gronkowski’s status.

I mean, this is not even considering the nonsense Gronk has been into since he “retired”.  Wrestling, “acting”, pimping CBD oil, disastrous Fox pregame appearances…ugh…off the field, I’ve been wanting him to go away for quite some time.

None of that matters at all at this point, now that he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

How do we feel about him returning to the field now?  And not back in a Patriot uniform?

Glad you asked!!

I don’t care.

I really don’t.

Listen, I LOVED Gronk when he was playing here.  Didn’t necessarily love some of his antics off the field when he was playing, similar to what he has done during his year off.  But while he was laying his body on the line, making huge plays and helping the Pats win games and ultimately Super Bowls, I just dealt with the silliness like everyone else.

Could he have helped presumptive new QB Jarrett Stidham this upcoming season?  Absolutely.  No question about it.

But let’s also face some facts.  He will be 31.  Seemingly not that old.  But he has taken an absolute beating over the years.  Amazing he has lasted this long, what with his back problems that started when he was in college and then the surgeries he has had as a pro.  Not to mention the other injuries he had, including the ones we probably never even knew about.

On a team that is retooling on the fly, with only one definitive other viable receiving option right now (a 34 year old, similarly banged up Julian Edelman), with Gronk once again facing double and triple teams (perhaps based on reputation as well), how enticing would a return to New England be for him?  And how effective would he be as a result?

In Tampa, he may be the third or fourth option.  More enticing for him for sure.  He also may be asked to not work as hard, as they have other capable tight ends on the roster.  Two for now, but at least one will be there in September.  The Pats have no other capable tight ends.  Hard to believe they will add anyone else there either.  A draft pick maybe.  But how reliable will that guy be this current season?

The beatings would continue if he came back here.

Let’s also face this:  Gronk was done with playing in New England.  And that’s ok.

Rumors have it that he was indeed dealt to Detroit for a first round pick before the 2018 season.  But threatened to retire.  So the deal never happened.

He only wanted to play with Brady.  So now he is unretiring to play with Brady.

And I am ok with that too.

I do wish, for the betterment of the team, that if Bill Belichick felt that trading Gronk for a first rounder was the best way to go, that it was allowed to happen.  But it wouldn’t have been the first time a higher up squashed something an underling wanted to do.  So be it.

I also don’t believe that Gronk is that unstoppable force anymore that he was throughout his career.  Injuries have taken their toll for sure.  Looked like throughout during the 2018 season anyway.  He will be an asset to the Bucs, no question.  And maybe win a game for them next season.  He will also most assuredly be better than any Patriot tight ends this year as well.  But it is hard to believe he will be an All-Pro again.  Time will tell.

Jason Witten took a year off and came back.  No great shakes in his return.  Yes, he is also much older than Gronk.  But I think we can draw some parallels.

I would have liked to have gotten more than a fourth round pick for him (while also trading a seventh rounder).  But he wasn’t playing for the Pats anyway.  Under any scenario.  And he could have unretired first, had his remaining salary go up against the cap to cause the Pats to have to frantically cut someone, trade someone or restructure one or more deals.

So there were a couple of sides to that story.

It seems to me that the end result made everyone happy.  We will just have to see how it plays out.  But I am not fretting the departure of Gronk.  Things will be ok.

Though I guess Bill would have taken that first rounder a couple of years ago over the fourth rounder now…

As for the draft, what will the Patriots do?

WHO THE HELL KNOWS?!

Haha…seriously though, what do I think?

Again, glad you asked!!

You’ve heard all the rumors:  Trade up for Tua, trade down for picks, trade picks into next year because the coronavirus will limit the offseason programs and perhaps even training camp itself, trade Joe Thuney, trade for O.J. Howard, take a quarterback high to compete for the job…etc.

Oh and “Bill never takes a running back in the first round”, then he takes Sony Michel in 2018.  And “Bill never takes a wide receiver in the first round”, then he takes N’Keal Harry in 2019.

We could go on all day.  The only thing that is certain is that Bill will take a guy that will really only be able to play special teams in the NFL in the 5th-6th round.  That doesn’t include the kicker that will likely be drafted in the middle rounds.

Nothing would surprise me.  Nothing.

Another hot take is that “releasing Cody Kessler is a real sign the Pats will definitely take a QB in the draft”.

It is??!

Why?

They have like 24 open roster spots.  They could go sign a Cam Newton or Jameis Winston eventually if they wanted to.  Or trade for Andy Dalton.  Or…gasp…re-sign Kessler eventually if nothing else materializes.  They could re-sign Kessler as a fourth arm, even if they do sign, trade or draft another dude.

But I don’t see them taking a QB as automatic.

If they take someone high, it may be an admission that the team does not believe that Stidham is the long term guy.  And what would that do for his confidence?

I could see them taking a QB late, a Danny Etling type.  Practice squad type guy to roll the dice on.  But I don’t see them trading up for anyone.  Or taking a guy relatively high.  Jake Fromm?  Perhaps.  But what is that, 4th-5th round?  Unlikely a threat to Stidham.

I really do think they are rolling with Stidham and Hoyer this season.  For better or for worse.

As for the actual picks, my opinion?  As it stands, the Patriots have 12 draft picks.  They will wheel and deal like they normally do.  Even with everyone drafting from home, fantasy football style.  Might not be as easy.  But I bet a lot of the legwork has been done already (e.g. the deal will likely happen only if a player is still available in that certain spot).

It will be fascinating to watch.  Mainly because it is the first “post-Tom Brady” draft.  Also because, well, there is nothing else going on in sports.

Specifics?  Best I can do is:

They WILL draft a kicker.

They MAY draft a QB, but mid to late rounds.

They WILL draft a lot of fat guys on the line, on both sides of it.

They MAY trade a pick or two into next years’ draft.

They WILL not trade up in the first round.

They MAY stand pat in the first round (instead of trading down) and take a non-skill position player.

They WILL entertain offers for G Joe Thuney, but won’t give him away.

They MAY make a real player deal or two (Howard?  Another veteran on the outs with another organization?)

That about sums it up.  About as an expert analysis as you will get East of Mel Kiper Jr.!

One last thing, there WILL be some technical difficulties during the draft.  May be minor, as the NFL did a trial run the other day to work out the kinks.

But seeing that this event is going to break television records apparently, would anyone be surprised if the hackers were heavily involved?  People are talking about coaches or team reps losing internet access, blue screens, miscommunications with Roger Goodell and issues along those lines.

Wouldn’t shock me to see a little porn being thrown up on the screen at some point during the telecast.

Just sayin’…

Are We Ready? Part II…

Continuing on with the offense, as promised (threatened?!):

RB (5):

Locks:  Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris

In:  Rex Burkhead, Dan Vitale (FB)

Out:  James Develin (FB), Jakob Johnson (FB)

Comments:  Much less interesting than the quarterback position.  Michel was not very good last year.  But neither was the offensive line.  Hopefully, they both improve.  Because he will likely get most of the touches again.

Not to mention that I believe that with Stidham at QB, the Pats will try to run the ball even more.  Rely more on that and the defense to win games.  I believe Belichick has wanted to do that since drafting Michel.  To protect against Brady getting old at first.  Now to lessen the burden on a young QB.

Harris is primed for a bigger role this year after he spent his rookie season redshirting.  Not unusual for a young back to go this route, just ask White.

Rex is a popular potential salary cap casualty pick by a lot of people.  But, like a lot of guys on this roster (White included), I think the team sticks with them in the final year of their contracts.  Again, I don’t expect this roster to look much different once training camps open in July (presumably).  Other than new, cheap faces.  So I don’t think any of the popular “they can cut him to create cap space” guys are going anywhere.  Plus Rex is pretty good when healthy.  I know, good health is kind of a problem for him.  But still…

Don’t be surprised if Harris was groomed to take White’s role.  Similar to White being groomed to take Shane Vereen’s role.  Could White be traded to open up that door as soon as this season?  Possible.  But I don’t see it.  They will probably just let him walk after the year.  Like what they did with Vereen.  Plus, no one knows how capable Harris is yet anyway.  And Bill LOVES those compensatory picks.

Develin is a coaches favorite.  But the way I see it, Vitale’s signing means that Dev is not ready.  Neck injuries are kind of serious folks.  Maybe he starts on PUP.  Maybe he goes on IR for another year.  Maybe he gets released.  Maybe the Pats carry two fullbacks?  Maybe Vitale is just here until Develin is deemed fully healthy so that Michel has his security blanket back?

I can’t believe I just wrote this much on the fullback position…

WR (5):

Locks:  Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu

In:  Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers

Out:  Gunner Olszewski, Quincy Adeboyejo, Devin Ross

Comments:  Many people all of a sudden want to trade Jules to Tampa to be with his buddy.  But the Bucs have Chris Godwin and Mike Evans.  I think Tom will be ok.  And then I hear during this writing about rumors of Jules to…Detroit??!

Ummmmm…no thanks…

Jules should be good for Stidham.  And maybe Jarrett won’t feel the need to target him 400 times, so that can keep Edelman healthy…for a while anyway.  I get it, Julian was the most reliable receiver for Brady last year.  By far.  So Tom kept looking for him.  And it worked for a long time.  But man, did Jules take a beating last season.  Let’s keep him around to help the kid.  But let’s also develop a couple of other guys so that Edelman is able to stay on the field.

This is where Harry and Meyers, in particular, come in.  They need to develop a rapport with Jarrett.  Meyers had one in the preseason last season.  But that was the preseason.  I do think that’s what keeps him on this years’ roster, however.

Harry HAS to work.  And since he won’t have a QB that hates him now (presumably), maybe N’Keal can take the next step.

Gunner seemed to be a desperation roster add last year during final cuts, in order to mainly return punts…but now that Sanu is here, it’s not necessary to keep him.  Sanu can return pun…oh wait, that’s how he got hurt last season when he got here and then was useless after.  Nevermind.  But although Gunner was game, he took his own beating.  And while he may be a nice practice squad guy, the Pats should do better.

That’s where Byrd comes in.  Maybe he can return all kicks.  And add some speed.  And be more useful than Phillip Dorsett.  Is that too much to ask?

As for Sanu, people want to cut him as well for salary cap purposes.  As bad as he was down the stretch last year, I am going to give him somewhat of a pass because of the injury.  He IS a proven receiver in this league.  If healthy, he should be a good receiver for this team.  Especially if Harry can establish himself and put Sanu in the #3 role at best.

TE (2):

Locks:  None

In:  Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo

Out:  None

Comments:  A draft pick or three here would seem to be in order.  Gronk ain’t walking through that door, my friends.  Best of luck in professional wrestling (sigh…).  Aaron Hernandez ain’t walking through that door either, and thank the Lord for that.  No Ben Coates, Russ Francis or even Marv Cook.  Sorry.

Funny thing is, these two dudes may stick.  LaCosse was never healthy last year.  Maybe he is halfway decent.  Izzo was supposedly hurt last season as well.  And we know he was hurt the year before.  So the team has invested 2 years in him already.

And…they are cheap.

People want the team to bring in a big name here.  That won’t happen.  It’ll be these two and a mid-round pick.  I can almost smell it.

For better or for worse…and I don’t really have anything better to say here.

OL (9):

Locks:  Isaiah Wynn (LT), Joe Thuney (LG), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT)

In:  Korey Cunningham (T), Jermaine Eluemunor (G), Yodny Cajuste (T), Hjalte Froholdt (G/C)

Out:  Najee Toran (G)

Comments:  That line looks pretty good on paper.  But will they all be there on Opening Day?

Thuney was surprisingly franchise tagged.  Some say he could be moved if there is no progress on an extension to lower the cap hit.  Andrews claims he is 100% but is he?  Cannon is one of those popular salary cap cuts.  And why not keep Thuney and try to trade Mason?

My guess?  They will all be here at their current cap numbers.

Thuney will pocket his almost 15 mil…did you see how long it took him to sign the tender?  The Pats won’t trade him, as they need the O-Line to be strong for the first year of the Stidham era.  And Thuney won’t sign an extension.  He will want his first huge long-term contract.  Especially since he has already has two Super Bowl rings.  The Pats won’t give him one…not yet anyway.  And Joe may want to see how that first year of the new era actually goes before committing long term to the franchise.

Andrews hopefully is healthy, Wynn hopefully stays healthy, as will Cannon…and even Mason, as there were indications he was bad last season because he was hurt.

No Dante Scarnecchia?  Might be a problem.  But he didn’t matter last season.  So maybe he won’t matter this year.  Hate to say that.  But could be true.

The 4 “In” dudes were drafted last season or acquired for picks right before the season.  I feel like they all will get another year to see if they are useful.  Eluemunor for sure, since they actually tendered him at 2.133 million as a restricted free agent (what?!).  The other 3 are still making 6 figures.

Maybe not though, as they all could get pushed by this years’ draft picks.  No harm in throwing some more bodies into the mix and see who is left standing in the end.

Next:  Defense and specialists.

Dark…

…so the title was supposed to mean something different, what with the whole country (world?) seemingly shutting down due to the Coronavirus.

First the NBA

Then the NHL

PGA

NCAA

MLB

MLS

XFL

…and of course everything else right on down the list.  Including restaurants, bars, some stores, construction and all that kind of stuff locally.

People seem to be listening to the warnings to stay home.  Drove around a little last night in my town (gasp!) and it pretty much was a ghost town.

Damn Coronavirus!

So with absolutely no sports to talk about, what the hell is the Blowhard to do?

Do we shut down too?  Not sure what to talk about!  We all for damn sure know there is more than enough coverage about the virus itself, there needs to be nothing else said about it by me.  Not that I could even add anything intelligent about it anyway…we could help spread the news…or at least some misinformation about it.  But why bother?  Does anyone even know what to believe anymore?

I stopped reading coverage.  It’s all over the place.  So are the opinions…which I care even less about.

So I just stay home and stare at a blank TV screen.  Since there are no games…

But wait!

There is something left…NFL free agency.

Glad that was not delayed as well.  Folks were worried about “bad optics” with players getting gazillion dollar contracts during a worldwide health crisis.

Like those wouldn’t have happened anyway.

So why not just do it now?  Especially since sports fans need SOMETHING.  And maybe even non-sports fans need a little bit of this too…for a distraction.  Even if they hate the idea.

As for the local angle, which is really why we are here in the first place, things started off innocuously enough.

Devin McCourty re-signed.  As did Matthew Slater.  And Jason McCourty’s option was picked up.  Also, Adam Butler was tendered at a second round level, making him unlikely to go anywhere.

Although the money was kind of big for the first three, it’s not out of hand.  And it’s not long-term.  So I can live with that.

The Pats then franchised Joe Thuney.  SHOCKING.

Almost 15 mil for a guard.  When their other guard, Shaq Mason, makes like 10 mil.

That’s a LOT of dough for guards.  Thuney was supposedly good last year, according to those who actually grade offensive line play, and Mason has been good in the past (though not last year).  But the line sucked as a whole last season.  So this money is hard to justify.  I guess if they work out a long term deal with Thuney before the deadline in July (I think).  But Joe will still be 8 figures plus every year.

Besides, I thought Belichick only franchised kickers.  Both Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski were both franchised by the team…and I think both more than once.  Don’t fact-check me on this, however.

Then yesterday, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins both departed…well, they can’t officially “depart” until Wednesday when free agency actually starts.  But you get the idea.

They were the first defections.  That mattered anyway.

We thought Van Noy would get paid and walk…and he sure did get paid by the Dolphins.  Thought there was a chance Collins would be cheaper and would stay.  He had a great first half against bum teams, then slowly faded in the second half against better teams.  But he still got 3/30 from old friend Matt Patricia.  Good luck to all that out there in Detroit.

I guess that means Elandon Roberts will re-up at some point.  And that warms my heart.  Ummmmm…no it doesn’t.  He is simply not any good.  At either linebacker or fullback.  Despite what the beat writers want you to think.

We here at the Blowhard do not care about the rest of the Patriot free agents…if you haven’t heard that a million times in this space already.

That means you, Danny Shelton.  And you, Nate Ebner.  And most certainly you, Phillip Dorsett.

Welp, that is a bit of a lie.

Because we cared a smidge about one other guy.

Tom Brady.

Whodya think we were going to say silly, Ted Karras??!!

Yes Brady.  Yes we cared.  No we didn’t necessarily care if he was coming back to the Patriots.  We’ve said time and time again that we are not going to get all worked up about a 43 year old QB.  Despite the legend that he is.  The six Super Bowl rings that he led the Pats to.  The desire to see anyone play their whole career with one team.  The sadness or at least weirdness to see him in a different uniform and finish his career with a different team.

And all that.

But again, we root for the laundry here, and the player that wears that laundry as long as they wear it.  When they go to a different team, we don’t necessarily root for the player to fail (well, depends on who it is I guess…and where they end up…hello Johnny Damon on the Yankees, for example?).

We will NOT root for Brady to fail.  No matter who he goes to.  Even if it is the Jets (unlikely), Bills (probably not) or Dolphins (a chance perhaps?).  Or Steelers.  Or Broncos.  Or Giants.  Or anyone.

I will absolutely have none of that nonsense.

But my rooting interest is still the Patriots.  Simple as that.

Oh wait…in case you missed it, and I don’t know how the hell you may have, Brady announced on Instagram this morning that he will not be returning to the Pats.  There has been no contract agreed to with anyone else, as far as I can tell or have heard.  But he won’t be coming back here.

So the Brady watch is (kind of) over.  For all intents and purposes here anyway.

It will be interesting to see where he lands, no two ways about it.  But the most important part to a lot of us has already been revealed.

My sense all along was that Bill Belichick did not want Brady to come back.  Hell, he wanted Jimmy Football over Tom a few years back, we know that much.  He’s probably glad he was forced to keep Tom though, with the latest Super Bowl wins adding to the trophy case.  But still, it doesn’t change the fact that he wanted to move on from Brady a mere few years ago.

Jimmy Garoppolo is not coming back, however, as some rumors swirling the past few weeks would have you believe.

So who is next?

GREAT question.

Based on the Patriots’ current salary cap situation, wouldn’t it suggest they are riding or dying with Jarrett Stidham this upcoming season?

I know, I know, cap space can be manipulated in many ways.  Trades and cuts and restructurings and all that can happen too.

But at this point, they have very little cap room.  And that has to be a factor for right this second.

Recent rumors have suggested the Pats may be interested in Teddy Bridgewater.  I have a hard time believing they will shell out a ton of dough there though, even if the cap space became available.  Plus, a whole lot of other teams are interested in Bridgewater.

Cam Newton?  Doubt that as well.

Andy Dalton as a stopgap?  Those were the earlier rumors.  But I’d rather just go with Stidham, to be honest.

Lesser “stopgaps” have already agreed to terms with other clubs:  Marcus Mariota, Chad Henne, Case Keenum, Chase Daniel…

Cody Kessler?  Please.

Outside the box QB?  Who no one is talking about?  That may be the best choice of all of the above?

At this point, unless a truly viable QB comes out of the woodwork, I say go with Stidham.

Right now.

But stay tuned…things should get a whole lot more interesting all around…

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